The “Blue Hens of a Feather” series highlights students and alumni of the University of Delaware’s Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics who “flock together” with fellow Blue Hens to launch successful business ventures. Read on for the story of two UD alums who partnered their businesses to create memorable wedding experiences.
In February of 2019 Nick Liberatore and Rick Biddle, two UD alumni, found their businesses, Lib’s Grill and Rosewood Farms, seated next to each other at the Baltimore Wedding Experience bridal show and expo.
“Immediately the ties to UD came out,” said Nick Liberatore, who is the owner of Lib’s Grill and a UD Class of 2011 graduate with a major in hospitality and a minor in business administration, on meeting Rick Biddle, a mechanical engineering alum from the Class of 1978.
Liberatore talked about his passion for the restaurant industry, which runs in his family; the Liberatores are well known for their eponymous Italian restaurants throughout Maryland. Biddle discussed his decision to move away from the engineering world to start multiple business ventures with his children.
Within a week, Liberatore visited Biddle’s newest business venture, Rosewood Farms, a 44-acre former winery and poultry farm that Biddle converted into a wedding and event venue. While there, Liberatore said, “Rick shared Rosewood’s core values of responsiveness, honesty and excellence. I admired this because I, too, believe in having a clear vision.”
Liberatore was especially impressed that “our entire business meeting was conducted while Rick rocked his gorgeous grandbaby to sleep.” This family-focused mindset was something that immediately united the two.
As Biddle said, “I use the term Rosewood Family to describe all the staff that help us each day and have truly become a family that laugh, cry and produce together.”
Thanks to these shared values, and their connection as Blue Hens, Liberatore said the two have developed a strong business relationship: “We exchange big picture ideas very often about business ownership, associate development and philanthropy partnerships.”
So when Biddle’s team at Rosewood Farms asked Liberatore to create a customized menu option for their guests, Liberatore said he was excited to become a catering partner. His team worked to develop a menu “that paid tribute to their core values, the people that make up Rosewood, and the land itself.”
Items like the Eggscellent Appetizer (deviled eggs with crab meat) pay homage to Rosewood’s roots as a chicken farm, and the word “excellence,” one of their core values. Uncle Rick’s Pilsner is a drink option named for Biddle. A s’mores bar option was inspired by Rosewood operation manager Chrissy Timlin’s love of hiking and campfires. And Liberatore’s team even priced food portions at $44 in reference to the 44 acres purchased in Rosewood Farm’s acquisition.
“It proudly displays the care we, Lib’s Grill, and in particular our catering director, Kristin Logan, take in for our hospitality and guest relations,” Liberatore said of the catering partnership. “We are delivering a great experience, served by great people, for other great people… We just care.”
This principle of caring for others, both Liberatore and Biddle said, extends beyond their family, friends, colleagues and clients to all Blue Hens. Biddle’s wife, Anne, mentioned that the family is proud of their strong UD connections.
“I’m from the Class of 1980 College of Nursing,” Anne said. “A true blue loyal Blue Hen for life! Yes, we have loads of Fightin’ Blue Hens in our clan. Son, two daughters, many nieces, brother, sister-in-law, husband, and hopefully grandchildren in the future!”
Perhaps that’s why Rosewood Farms has hired many UD students and alums since their October 2018 opening. One of the Biddle’s aforementioned daughters, Katie White, is business manager for Rosewood. And Alicia Fox, Rosewood’s marketing coordinator and a UD Class of 2018 marketing graduate with minors in art and advertising, said she’s hired six UD marketing interns so far, along with four newly hired interns for the Winter Session.
“I have definitely loved hiring interns from the University of Delaware,” Fox said. “There is just this connection we have coming from the same educational background. I am able to mentor them in their work at Rosewood, but also beyond that. I have stayed in contact with each intern we’ve had and I love to see them grow and achieve whatever they set their minds to.”
Biddle and Liberatore added that their time at UD helped them to build skills that are invaluable in their work to make Rosewood Farms and Lib’s Grill among the premiere catering and venue providers in the area.
“UD has taught me invaluable lessons on networking, systematic processes and to celebrate accomplishments as much as possible,” Liberatore said.
And while Biddle acknowledged that a degree in mechanical engineering may seem like an unconventional path to becoming a wedding venue entrepreneur, he said that the engineering processes he learned at UD were vital to the design, construction and operations of his business: “For me, UD set the path.”